Schools starts next week and if your child is part of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) their bus driver may be familiar but will work for someone else this year.
The school system is taking over bus service from a private vendor (MV Reliant) after complaints last year of buses breaking down. The vendor pulled out of its contract and the school system is taking over.
For bus drivers like Debra Alexander and Janet Bryant who have been driving for more than 20 years, it’s back to work for the school system after working for three private companies in the past decade -Laidlaw, First Student and then MV Reliant. “It’s going to be interesting, it’s been good so far,” says Alexander. Bryant told us she thinks the school system “seems more organized and morale just seems good. I’m excited for this year.”
Vanessa Miller Kaigler who is the deputy superintendent and chief operations officer says Savannah Chatham County Public School System says drivers will are receiving additional training and will receive support in terms of a system that allows them to succeed. She also says they’re upgrading technology. “So you’ll see more efficiency and effectiveness to allow us to concentrate on getting those buses on the roads and getting them to those stops on time,” she told us.
Miller Kaigler says they need 337 drivers and have the majority of those already. A few are still completing the training process but she says “all will be ready by Friday when they begin to practice their routes.
And she says buses will definitely be in good repair. Rudolph Lightsey the director of transportation says employees spent the summer repairing buses which he says includes new parts. “Usually a vendor is concerned with the bottom line, we were more concerned with safety in terms of making the buses safe for children to ride,” said Lightsey.
Lightsey also told us that a recent DOT inspection proves the school system is on the right track. “That inspection showed that we were 83 percent better with buses as far as safety and maintenance are concerned as in the previous three years,” he said.
He and Miller Kaigler also told us a new GPS system called “Zonar” will be used this year. It allows drivers to do pre-trip and post-trip checks and any problems are noted in the data which is uploaded directly to the maintenance department.
Then there’s communication. Parent often complain about not being able to get through (especially in the first few weeks of school) to report a lost child or a late bus. But the school system says a new phone system has been installed with 15 lines. “So if we have 15 calls come in at one time, every one one of those calls will be answered,” said Kaigler Miller. She says caller number 16 will hear a recorded message but that message should tell the caller how long they should remain on hold.
“We have worked diligently to make sure that we improve our overall customer service so we are able to respond to parents in a timely manner,” said Miller Kaigler. She also told me the phone number for parents to call this year will be 912-395 5591.
She also told us that beginning Friday, all drivers will do practice runs starting at the time of their actual route.